Rolland psyched for Critérium International
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rolland psyched for Critérium International

by VeloNation Press at 8:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium International
 
‘The course is awesome and the Col de l'Ospedale fits me like a glove’

Pierre RollandWinner atop Alpe d’Huez in 2011 and at La Toussuire/Les Sybelles in last year’s Tour, top French climbing talent Pierre Rolland is eager to test his 2013 uphill form in this weekend’s Critérium International.

The Europcar rider has finished in the top ten in the last two Tours and with more climbs on the agenda this year, is looking for his best-ever performance in July. He’ll have a chance to line out against some of his big rivals for that event this week in Corsica, and is looking forward to the race.

“The Critérium International is an interesting test for the best-climbers. Coming here is a must,” he said. “It's quite impressive to see Froome and Contador [first and second overall at the Tour of Oman, second and third overall in Tirreno–Adriatico – ed.] are already firing on all cylinders. They'll be just as strong in July.”

Rolland has clocked up plenty of racing this year, competing in the Tour du Gabon, the Etoile de Bessèges, the Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour of Langkawi. He’s raced 27 days in all, but hasn’t competed since Langkawi ended two and a half weeks ago.

He said that he now feels like he can chase a result. “I chose a large block of races to rev up my engine. This is how I like to build up my form, with recovery periods of two or three weeks, instead of having a programme full of one-day races with loads of tiring journeys in between.”

Thus far, his best showings have come in the Tour de Langkawi, where he was fourteenth on the Genting Highland stage and twentieth overall. He could have done better except for a puncture ten kilometres from the end of stage seven, when he was in a breakaway move.

His form is rising, but he had wanted to achieve bigger things in Malaysia. “In all honesty, I was expecting something more,” he said, “but I just happened to come up against riders who were stronger than me on the climbs. But, after 27 days of racing, what was really important was to see I didn't feel tired. I've done a really good job.”

The Critérium International will begin on Saturday with an 89 kilometre race starting and finishing in Porto Vecchio, then continues that afternoon with a 7 kilometre individual time trial in the same town.

The big stage for Rolland will be Sunday’s 176 kilometre leg to the top of the Col de l'Ospedale, a tough climb which has settled the past few editions of the race and which sealed Cadel Evans’ overall win last year.

He has finished eighth at the summit in 2011 while one year earlier he was the King of the Mountains winner at the end of the two days.

As a result, he’s got good memories and is keen to compete there again. “It's a gorgeous race which I really like,” he said. “The course is awesome and the Col de l'Ospedale fits me like a glove if I'm in the same condition as two years ago.”

The island has been the location for the race since years. Hosting it there was part of Corsica’s build-up for a successful bid to host the start of this year’s Tour de France, but Rolland states that it’s unsure what will happen longer term. He believes the riders should enjoy racing the Critérium International while it’s still on the island.

“It has a special taste to it this year because we'll be back for the Grand Start of the Tour de France,” he said. “The Critérium International doesn't really use the same roads, so it's more about soaking the atmosphere of the island than about testing the routes.”

His Europcar team held a training camp in the island in December and has already checked out the race routes for the Tour. The impression he has got is that the start of that race will be tough. “I've got a feeling it'll be hectic. Considering the difficulty, we'll have to be in top shape from the beginning and ready to jump into the thick of it for the overall.

“Unlike other years, you can't just come at 90% of your top shape and aim to peak during the third week.”

Critérium International:

Saturday, March 23:

Stage 1: Porto-Vecchio to Porto-Vecchio, 89 km
Stage 2: Porto-Vecchio to Porto Vecchio, 7 km (ITT)

Sunday, March 24:

Stage 3: Porto-Vecchio to Col de l'Ospedale, 176 km

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